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Expert Q&A: Avoiding the Freshman 15

An interview with Connie Diekman, MEd, RD

There also seems to be a parallel epidemic of eating disorders among students. Is that related to the freshman 15?

The environment of watching people eat and seeing people eat as much as they want and not gain a pound can make it difficult to put “healthy eating” into perspective for college students. We end up with weight gain. Some students handle this well and others will resort to disordered eating such as fad diets, restriction, and sometimes it moves on to eating disorders.

How can healthy eating among college students be encouraged?

Kids are not getting the nutritional education that they need to arm themselves for college. My recommendation to schools and parents is to talk more about healthy eating in high school and middle school. We need to teach kids about the importance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy food. We need to teach them what they should eat, not what they should not eat. College kids also spend a lot of time on the Web. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Go to reputable sites for good nutritional information, and do not believe the fast, quick, and easy way to drop 5 pounds. Also find out what services are available on campus, such as a dietitian or health and wellness center that can help develop healthy eating strategies.

How did you fare weight-wise when you were an undergraduate?

I did not gain the freshman 15. I was -- and still am -- blessed with genes that burn pretty well. I have a good metabolism. That is really important.

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Reviewed on November 25, 2008

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